Referrals Defined. In a Way You and Your Boss Won’t Like.

Referrals Defined. In a Way You and Your Boss Won’t Like.

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at

Referrals Defined. In a Way You and Your Boss Won’t Like.

QUESTION FROM A READER: I am taking a new business development job for a wellness and surgery center. We need doctors to refer their obese patients to us. Doctors seem so hard to get in front of, and they don’t like sales tricks. Do you have any new suggestions besides networking and dropping off literature? Kelly

Kelly, before you go looking for referrals, as yourself: HOW REFERABLE AM I? WHY WOULD SOMEONE REFER ME? Do you interview each patient after surgery or treatment to ask about his or her experience? How the doctor’s bedside manner was? What the administrative ease or pain was? Are you recording the interview? Is anyone posting on Facebook about their experience? Are you encouraging them to? You seem to be asking me for answers that your patients can give you – and can talk to their doctor about. Once the patient has debriefed the doctor about how amazing their treatment was, you can film it, and referrals will be automatic. BEST IDEA: Meet with doctors who are already referring and ask them WHY they refer. That will help you understand your present status, and give you reasons to share with other doctors. Best regards, Jeffrey

Kelly’s question begs more questions and a longer response, because referrals are the single best (and most profitable) source for new sales. They are also the LEAST used source. WHY? They require work. Hard work.

REALITY: Most salespeople are not willing to do the hard work it takes to make selling easy.

QUESTION FROM JEFFREY TO READERS: Why are you (still) ASKING for referrals?
ANSWER: You haven’t EARNED them!
SECOND ANSWER: My boss says I have to.
REALITY ANSWER: When I ask a new customer for a referral, it makes them (and me) uncomfortable.

Salespeople and sales managers are always looking for the fast way out. Their two-word cry is: MORE NOW!

Maybe if I explained the one word definition of the word referral — which is RISK — you’d get a better idea. Your customer is willing to risk their relationship with someone else, and refer them to you. That’s why they’re hesitant.

What could you do to win more referrals? I just gave you the answers! You probably thought I was talking to Kelly. No, I was making a universal challenge to you about referrals, and the strategy used to obtain them. Lots of them.

Think about your referrals:
How do you get them?
How should you get them?
Why are you still asking for them?

QUESTION: Do you really know, do you really understand, how a customer feels when you ask for a referral?
ANSWER: You are defined in their mind as a “taker.” They don’t just feel uncomfortable, they will now avoid your calls and not return your emails. You’ll wonder why, and BLAME THEM.

How’s that for building loyalty?


Anyone can “ask.” Only the top salespeople “earn.”

I love the pathetic line at the bottom of a card or email, “I love referrals.” Even the softer version, “I appreciate referrals.” What kind of a statement is that?! It’s a begging one. A greedy one. The statement should be, “I earn referrals.” Or “I earn referrals by giving referrals.” Or “I love earning referrals.”

Okay, so what CAN you do to make yourself more referable?

  • Deepen the relationship. Create regular dialog. Help them as much as you are able.
  • Give weekly value via your email magazine. Look at mine ( as an example. Free, weekly advice to salespeople. Put yours together, and press send!
  • Promote your customers in your social media. Post them and tag them –good news and compliments only.
  • Create and offer incentives. This gives someone who really likes you a reason to go out of his or her way for you.
  • Have coffee and a three-way — you, your customer, and a potential customer for them. A referral or a great connection. Invite a prospect for your customer to breakfast and they will have a 100% on-time attendance record. By far, the best way to get a referral is to: Give a referral!

And keep in mind that a referral is way more than a sales lead. A referral is a report card. A referral — especially an unsolicited one — tells you that you did everything else great. They’re rewarding you, and thanking you, for helping them.

Nice feeling in the heart, and in the wallet.